NJ Veterinary Hospital Warns of Leptospirosis Hot Spots

October 24, 2018
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

A specialty animal hospital in New Jersey is warning pet owners about increasing leptospirosis diagnoses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Canine leptospirosis has been reported in the United States for more than a century. Although the incidence in the United States in relatively low—an estimated 100 to 250 cases are reported annually—this week NorthStar VETS veterinary emergency and specialty hospital in Robbinsville, New Jersey has reported a marked increase in the number of dogs with leptospirosis treated at the hospital as well as at other veterinary hospitals in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The practice is advising owners to have their pets vaccinated against this zoonotic disease.

Steven Berkowitz, DVM, emergency and critical care veterinarian for NorthStar VETS, said, "We want pet parents to be aware of leptospirosis, and to consider vaccinating their at-risk pets to help prevent spread of the disease. Each individual patient should be assessed by their family veterinarian."

Leptospirosis causes hepatic and renal disease in dogs and people. The disease is spread most commonly when infected urine comes in contact with a person’s mucus membranes or an open wound. The bacteria can also be found in standing water. Clinical signs include malaise, excessive thirst, increased urination, a waxing and waning fever, vomiting or loss of appetite, icterus, excessive bleeding or bruising and, ultimately, kidney and/or liver failure.

Owners whose dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis—especially individuals who are pregnant or immunosuppressed—should let their personal health care provider know. Treatment includes long-term antibiotics and supportive care. Without treatment the disease can be fatal to both people and pets.